The hard math on the new $56,000 Alzheimer's drug

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The new Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm costs $56,000 per person, per year -- so much that it would affect the economics of Medicare.
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(CNN) The new Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm costs $56,000 per person, per year -- so much that it would affect the economics of Medicare .

The US Food and Drug Administration granted maker Biogen special approval despite concerns regarding evidence about how well the drug, technically called aducanumab, even works -- leading to immediate backlash:

But the sheer cost of the drug is enough to raise questions.

Consider the hard math. It's not clear exactly how many patients would be eligible for the drug under the narrower FDA approval limiting use to those with only mild impairment or dementia. But at $56,000 a person, the cost to treat 500,000 patients -- a fraction of the estimated 6 million or so Americans who are estimated to have Alzheimer's -- would reach $29 billion in a single year.

For comparison, Medicare Part B, the hospital insurance plan for seniors, spent $37 billion total on all drugs in 2019.

The drug could be wrapped by Medicare into that Part B program since it is injected intravenously at a doctor's office, rather than prescribed from a pharmacy. This one drug could drive all Medicare premiums up, according to a recent report by CNN's Tami Luhby

$56,000 is a lot of money. The cost per person that Biogen says it will charge is The cost per person that Biogen says it will charge is $5,000 more than one year of tuition at Harvard

That $29 billion figure to treat 500,000 people is about a quarter of the annual cost of the Democrats' stimulus child tax credit program that has given nearly every parent in the country a monthly check with the aim of raising US kids out of poverty.

Why does this drug cost so much? There are millions of people and their families who want a new Alzheimers treatment. Any Alzheimers treatment.

"We have established a price for Aduhelm that reflects the overall value this treatment brings to patients,…
Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN
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